The environmental impacts of a proposal to build a car wash adjacent to the East Hampton Town Recycling Center on Springs-Fireplace Road dominated the discussion at a town planning board meeting last week.
Greg Darvin, the owner of the property, wants to build a nearly 5,500-square-foot car wash with parking and accessory structures on an acre of land between Maryland Avenue and Ohio Avenue, the entrance and exit roads to the recycling center.
The business would be at the rear of the parcel and screened from Springs-Fireplace Road by a proposed 50-foot-wide scenic easement. The car wash would have the capacity to service 80 cars in an hour according to documents submitted with the application.
Mr. Darvin originally filed the application in 2015, and has been represented at board meetings by Britton Bistrian, a land use consultant, and Tiffany Scarlato, an attorney.
At a March 6 planning board meeting, Ms. Bistrian said a professional car wash is the most environmentally-friendly way to clean a vehicle given that a typical at-home wash uses in excess of 150 gallons of water, and there are no regulations on the products being used.
The proposed car wash, she said, would recycle all but 11 gallons of
water per wash, and would use “biodegradable and enzyme-based cleaners.” The gray water from the washing would be contained, she said, and not discharged into the ground.
In a memo to the planning board last week, Eric Schantz, a senior planner, said the Town Planning Department has repeatedly asked for more details about how the car wash would be operated, including the specific chemicals that would be used for cleaning, the anticipated water usage, the quantity of gray water discharge that would be produced, and the exact plans for filtering and containing it.
The board, said Mr. Schantz, had also requested landscaping plans for the area in a 10-foot setback required by town code between the scenic easement and the car wash.
Previously, the board had asked the applicant to have a more thorough traffic study done on the proposal. An addendum presented this week found that traffic flow in the area would not be severely impacted.
º“It is our position the application is complete pursuant to the East Hampton town code and must be scheduled for a public hearing,” she said.
The applicant, she said, intends to obtain permits from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Suffolk County Health Department to operate the car wash. Those agencies would ensure that no discharge to the groundwater occurs, she said.
“This is an issue that Suffolk County has sole authority over, and is out of the expertise and jurisdiction of this board,” she said. Planning board approval of the application, she said, should be conditioned on the receipt of the county permits.
As for the landscaping plans, she said, “No further fencing or landscaping is required nor will it be proposed as the availability of space on the commercial lot is limited by the extensive easement.” The 10,350-square-foot easement, she said, will encumber more than 24 percent of the property. Since the easement will be offered once the car wash is constructed, said Ms. Scarlato, the 10-foot setback would be moot, because the structures would be pre-existing. The current site plan has the car wash’s parking lot abutting the easement.
“I really need to know before I can sign off on this, is what is being used in the cleansing products in the various services that will be offered there,” said Kathy Cunningham, the board’s vice chairwoman. “It may be perfectly harmless but I cannot in good faith go ahead unless I know what that is.”
Other board members concurred, and cited the board’s role in determining whether an environmental study of the proposal would be necessary according to the State Environmental Quality Review Act, or SEQRA.
Ms. Scarlato said the board seemed predisposed to require such a study even though there was no scientific evidence of potential adverse environmental impact from the proposed car wash.
The board decided to enlist the help of the town’s Natural Resources Department, which will help decide what information should be provided before the application can be deemed complete.
The board will also ask the town building inspector to weigh in on whether a 10-foot setback from the easement would be required for the car wash.
Although the meeting was a work session and not a public hearing, Carl Irace, who represents Citizens to Preserve the East End, a group that opposes the proposed car wash, voiced his disapproval from the audience and attempted to speak at the podium. Samuel Kramer, the chairman, prevented him from doing so. Carolyn Zenk, a lawyer who represents another citizens’ group, also shouted at the board, encouraging it to deny the application.
Mr. Irace on Friday said the car wash would change the character of the neighborhood, and it would negatively impact the environment as well as traffic flow on Springs-Fireplace Road. He believes the information the applicant has provided has been severely deficient. “Calling it half-assed would be an understatement,” he said. Accordingly, he said, the board should require that an in-depth environmental study of the proposal be undertaken.